Business School Administrators' and Faculty Perceptions of Online Learning: A Comparative Study
Tanner, John R., Noser, Thomas C., Totaro, Michael W., Issues in Innovation
The ever-increasing popularity of online programs may be due in no small measure to the growing number of adults who, both for personal or professional reasons, wish to earn a college degree, but are unable to relinquish their full-time jobs and attend on-campus, daytime classes (Roberts, 1998). Fortunately, the technological infrastructure needed to address the growing interest in online education is readily available, thus making the availability of online courses both economical and practical (Totaro et al., 2005). This study compares business school administrators' perceptions of online learning and business faculty perceptions of online learning. Business school administrators and business faculty are from various disciplines, such as accounting, economics, finance, management, management information systems, and marketing.
The collective demographics of college students have changed considerably from college students of, say, twenty years ago, where the typical college student was between 18 and 22 years old. Colleges and universities are catering increasingly to the "non-traditional" college student, whose age tends to be 23 years or older, married with children, and employed full-time (U. S. Department of Education, 2002). Online learning appears to offer the "non-traditional" student a practical alternative to on-campus courses.
Online learning may be delivered either synchronously or asynchronously. In the case of synchronous delivery, time boundaries usually are imposed, since the instructor and students must be online simultaneously. An alternative mode to synchronous delivery of online learning is asynchronous delivery, where neither time- nor place-boundaries are of much concern.
The virtual removal of time and place boundaries by online learning presents a practical means by which the non-traditional student may earn college credit, or even earn a college degree. Thus, interest in developing new online education programs, as well as strengthening existing ones, continues to increase. Still, questions regarding the quality of online courses--particularly as they compare with their in-class counterparts--may be of both practical and intellectual interest to academics, practitioners, and students (Phillips, 1998; Webster and Hackley, 1997).
Concerns about the quality of online courses are not without merit. This may be due in no small measure to a lack of consensus among online course participants (i.e., students, faculty, and administrators) about how the success (or failure) of online courses might be measured. Moreover, each participant group might conceivably hold differing opinions about, and perceptions of, what constitutes online course quality.
Because the delivery mechanism of online courses is substantially different from traditional in-class courses, common sense might suggest that attitudes and perceptions by participants--students, faculty, staff, and administrators--in online education are integral to the success (or failure) of online courses. Thus, insights about attitudes and perceptions of online learning participants may be useful to universities and colleges as they endeavor to design and deploy online courses at their institutions.
Administrators are uniquely positioned to authorize and fund online courses; faculty contribute directly to such courses. Thus, an understanding about attitudes and perceptions of both groups are important for the development and offering of online courses. The roles assumed by the members of each group are presumably heterogeneous; this suggests that there may be differences in attitudes and perceptions between them. We intend to investigate these potential differences by way of analysis of survey results.
From the foregoing discussion, we pose the following two research questions, both of which we address in our study:
1. How do attitudes and perceptions about online learning by business school administrators and business faculty members compare with one another? …